"Jim taught me - and I remember him saying this - that he who controls the pace wins the race," DeMeo said. "He said to control the tempo. I learned that if we were playing a better, more experienced team, to slow the game down. If we were playing a weaker team, we'd speed it up."
"I copied his philosophy," DeMeo said. "He said it's like putting stones in a jar. You put the larger ones in first. Then you put the pebbles and sand in around the larger ones. You never put the sand in first - because at the end you might not have room for the larger ones."
DeMeo can wax for hours on Valvano. He remembers they both had a love for essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. ("I always felt anyone named Waldo who would let the world know was a pretty secure guy," DeMeo said.) He remembers how, despite criticism to the contrary, Valvano cared for his players and their education. "He didn't want them just to graduate, but to excel," DeMeo said. "I carried that with me and wanted the same."
Then there was Valvano's keen sense of humor.
"He could have been a standup comic," DeMeo said. "He was tremendously funny. We'd use each other's jokes. And when he came into the office, he'd take what he heard on the radio coming in and do a 15-minute monologue. It didn't matter what I was doing, he gave it.
"He was so funny I think it caused him to be underrated as a coach, an X-and-O man. He was really good at that. He was a gym rat. He was really into the fine points of basketball. He loved [former UCLA coach] John Wooden."
DeMeo tells stories of Valvano's pranks, including once using super glue on an administrator's phone handset. Valvano, though, received as well as gave.
"One time he brought this film in," DeMeo said. "He said it was a film of this great quarterback we needed to get. Well, I knew immediately when I saw it that it was Jim in high school [at Seaford High in Long Island].
"I watched and said, 'Jimmy, this isn't an athlete. Look how clumsy and unathletic he is.' He said, 'What do you mean?' Finally, he realized I was kidding.'"
Valvano's humor was legendary, including the story of when he introduced himself to a recruit as an Iona College coach. A kid once turned to his mom after the introduction and told her Valvano claimed to own a college.
Sadly, though, Valvano is now more known for his heroic death. He's known for the fight he put up against cancer. He's known for The Speech.
The one Charleston's Tony DeMeo can't bear to watch.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.